First – a couple of updates on past blog entries.
But – here is the thing, Critical Race Theory directly challenges this political understanding and method of mine – At least I perceive that it does. And, if CRT is correct – it should challenge my understanding and methodology. If CRT is correct, all the things I wish to ‘conserve’ need to be trashed. So, it becomes important to try to understand what CRT is.
The first thing to note is that Critical Theory preceded Critical Race Theory. Critical Theory arises from Marxism (Which does not mean that it’s all wrong). Emerging Critical Theorists said that previous sociology concentrated only on ‘understanding’ societies and cultures. What was needed, they said, was a scientific project not simply to understand but to critique/criticize societies and cultures, educate people as to the hidden levers of power that dominated their lives, challenge power structures and liberate humans from the circumstances that enslaved them – even if they were unaware of their enslavement. Although Critical Theory has undergone several changes over the years – the primary thought has been that the ‘founders’ of societies and ‘influences’ of culture create and steer cultural structures, economic systems, political philosophies, etc. that operate to their own advantage. This kind of shaping and steering, Critical Theory asserts, can be done consciously or unconsciously; the founders and influencers are after all, captive to the cultural assumptions in which they were raised. Hence – yes Lincoln freed the slaves but he still believed that white people were essentially superior to black people. In case you didn’t know, Lincoln did believe that at the time. Read the Lincoln/Douglass Debates. There is some evidence that Lincoln’s thoughts on the matter were changing before his untimely death. And arguments can be raised that preserving the Union for reasons of economic advantage and the maintenance of military and political power were as important motivators for Lincoln as his more humanitarian anti-slavery views. See! It was about preserving a way of life that was advantageous to Lincoln and people like him! Well, it wasn’t all about that but we would be foolish to think such factors were absent.
Moving on! Critical Race Theory narrows the focus of this societal/cultural critique and correction to, well, race. In our case, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln et al were white men who, though somewhat racially progressive for their times, still held views and participated in practices quite out of step with our times. This is true. They hailed from the very white European cultures Critical Theory was directed against. Also true. Consciously and unconsciously, they shaped our nation/society/culture to the advantage of people like themselves – WEALTHY WHITE MEN! Well, that is the question. At least it is the central ‘critique’ offered by CRT. The founders may not always have known they were doing it. We may have forgotten it was done and fail to perceive the racist currents of the ocean in which we swim. (Note: I am speaking here, as best I understand it, in the voice of CRT advocates.) So, the goal of CRT is to educate people as to the hidden levers of power that affect their lives, critique the racism embedded in our culture, and free us all from the circumstances that enslave us – even though we may be unaware of our enslavement. And the reason we don’t realize our enslavement is that American White racism is as pervasive and invisible as the air we breathe. Even laws which are formally and technically ‘color blind’ get bent by the invisible forces embedded in our culture (Store security watch black kids closer than white kids, judges and juries are harder on black men than on white men, police look at black people with more suspicion, etc.) so that the outcomes are racist. And until we realize and correct these things, we are all racist by virtue of our inclusion in the corrupt culture.
There is my best attempt to explain CRT. You may accept it completely or reject it completely as that is your (to use a loaded term) privilege. For myself, I recognize that there is some truth in it. And – I took the time to read ‘Not My Idea’ and ‘Woke Baby’. Although I thought Woke Baby was silly – in the silly vein of the equally silly ‘Feminist Baby’ of which it is an imitation – neither book is quite what its critics allege. I can still only give them one star. Maybe a star and a half for Not My Idea and half a star for Woke Baby. It averages out.
Now, I will tell you that despite seeing some truth in the central tenets of CRT, I find the movement’s corrective prescriptions to be unconscionably evil.
Overturning law enforcement will not set anyone free.
Judging people by their skin color – even as an adjunct to their culture – will never bring us together.
And most importantly, race is really not the issue.
I do not deny that there is a capricious cruelty loose in mankind nor that it results in barbarism, abuse, and exploitation. This is a central tenet of my belief system – Christianity. And I need everyone to understand that I do not identify as ‘White. I identify as ‘Christian’! I have more in common with another Christian of any shade of brown than with a non-Christian of my own particular hue or blood line. To employ the cliché – we suffer from a ‘sin’ problem not a ‘skin’ problem. Consider that darker brown Africans practiced slavery, cruelty, extreme otherness, etc. long before they met any Europeans. The Aztecs – another shade of brown – practiced slavery, torture and human sacrifice before their euro-encounters. And when white Europeans only knew each other – they were not universally kind to each other despite all being essentially the same shade of brown. To mistake a human problem for a narrowly racial problem (or an economic problem or …..) is to make a wrong diagnosis – which will always lead to a wrong prescription.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church